A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

In my years of working in multifamily and public relations, I have seen my fair share of great headshots. But as we see an influx of more thought leaders – from C-suite to onsite team members writing blogs and LinkedIn posts, I have likewise seen an influx of headshots that frankly could use some work. And since we all know a picture is worth a thousand words we should make sure all those words are great ones.

pexels-photo-1292306Selfies, filters, and Facetuning have enabled us to create some great lifestyle photos for our social media platforms. But from a business perspective, these features may not produce the best option for a headshot.

Now in full transparency, I recently asked my colleague if I should update my headshot to the same picture I use on my Facebook profile. She quickly and graciously said ‘no’ because it is a selfie. Her remark got me thinking, as access to technology increases and as we continue to showcase our lives on social media, how do we strike a balance in an executive headshot that expands beyond the traditional but embraces the modern era of authenticity and social media?

Here are some tips that I believe help us strike that balance and can help you create a headshot people will admire:

  • Editorial vs. Professional. Let’s start with the basics. There are two main types of executive headshots – editorial and professional. An editorial photo helps to tell a story through images while a professional headshot is just as it sounds – the more traditional image that we are used to seeing. Company brand standards may dictate what type of photo you have to take but if you have an opportunity to select what type of photo you want, I suggest taking some time to Google images of both to determine which you would feel more comfortable with. You might even find that a mix of the two would be just what you are looking for.
  • Your photographer. Of course, it would be preferred to work with a professional photographer, but if you don’t have access to one or can’t afford one, don’t be afraid to ask a friend or colleague. Again, while a DSLR camera would be preferred as you can play with manual settings and depth of field, today’s smartphones can offer high-quality, high-resolution capabilities to get the job done. With either a camera or smartphone, be sure to work with someone you trust. Even better if you can ask someone who you feel has a creative eye and is willing to put in the effort to capture a great picture.
  • Don’t panic – it can be retaken. Speaking of being comfortable, try not to panic at the idea of taking a headshot. I get it, it is hard to put yourself out there. Taking photos is stressful and we are all very critical of ourselves. I am not a very photogenic person and am notorious for closing my eyes at just the right moment; call me Chandler Bing and his infamous smile. ChandlerI make sure to mention my propensity to close my eyes to anyone taking my picture. It helps calm me down and helps them better prepare me for when the photo will be taken. Also consider crowdsourcing friends, colleagues and family members for their opinions of your best headshot from a series of photos. They will be unbiased and honest in their feedback. And if you don’t get any headshots that you love, you can always have them retaken!
  • Take your time. I know it may seem like you can just snap a quick photo and be good to go. Please don’t do this. Executive headshots should be given time and consideration. So taking your time should be of the highest priority. Take time to scout a location. This can be in your office, on a property, at a park or anywhere with an interesting background. Also, when you find a location, take time to be aware of the lighting – nothing too bright in your eyes or really bright on one side of your face. Make sure you don’t have anything sticking from behind your body – plants, trees, lamps, and street poles are notorious for this. Taking the time to focus on this seemingly minor details will ensure you are getting a great shot.
  • Understand the difference between filters and Photoshop. So this is probably the biggest thing that is impacting today’s headshots. Filters are awesome – we all look great with a little extra make-up, enhanced eyelashes or smoothed out skin. The problem here is that it is very obvious and in a professional headshot can come off as unauthentic. Photoshop, on the other hand, can still enhance your photo with adjustments to lighting, contrast, and exposure. You can even smooth out some unappealing spots that might be obvious but when done properly no one will know and this is what you are striving for. If you don’t have access to Photoshop, check out http://www.canva.com. It’s a free service that you can edit photos in. It does have filter options but I urge to not use them.

So what exactly does a good headshot look like? Here are some examples that I personally love (and thanks to all of you for agreeing to let me use your photo). The common theme within all these pictures for me is that they all offer a glimpse into each individual’s personality without being over the top. All the photos capture subtle personality traits and evoke a connection with the person in the picture. They truly speak 1,000 words to me about each person. Oh and brick backgrounds – I really dig them!

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